Eat Maine Foods!

Yowza! Can we have some substantive responses to this article? I have never taken an economics course, but I feel that there are false assumptions here that I can't grasp because I don't have the language. Is the the fundamental false assumption that food is a commodity and not something different?

http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2011/LuskNorwoodlocavore.html

 

Help me. I want to address this argument, but I feel that I have not got the appropriate tools at hand.

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Barbi - Thanks for posting this.  There are so many things wrong with both the assumptions and the logic of this article I barely know where to start.  I will digest at length and post a few talking points from my perspective.
Thanks, Lisa. It was on the nefood.org newsletter, so I took it as an article worth reading; I was quite taken aback at its premise and its tone. By the same token, it speaks to a lot of things that I think are in the thoughts of many. Like a certain "news" channel, it carries a message that we need to be prepared to refute.

Take that article, shred it up real fine, and sprinkle it around your plants - good compost.  There were two main points I got out of that article, and only one was valid from a macroeconomic standpoint. The argument that our economy is based on free trade and that buying local usually runs counter to that ideal is a valid argument, but the fact is that free trade has created cheap, mass produced food made by companies with the logistical capabilities to send it worldwide - this is inherently unfair and is preceisely why there is such a calling for local, organic, healthy food that returns us to the way we should be eating.  The article almost seems to come from some government agency that wants to control what gets put into food (read: negative).  The other point he tries to make is that buying local should be a "shopping" decision, not a "moral" one, but everything mentioned above tells you why this is also false and why we are morally bound to buy local as much as possible.

I had a pretty visceral reaction too, which is why I was looking for some help.

Maybe the fundamental problem is that commodity food looks like what we used to eat and seems to be grown the same way; it looks about the same and it smells about the same, so it must be the same. How do we teach that people that what's inside the skin/shell/husk isn't what was inside there when we were kids?

It's difficult to teach a concept that is complex when it conflicts with messages in the popular culture that are so appealingly simple.

Affordability is a critical piece of the discussion. As a working parent, I have neither the money to pay more than I must nor the time to shop at more locations than I must. By the same token, knowledge can be helpful; not all products in the grocery store are the same. Even if I can't buy the When Pigs Fly bread (available at my local Hannafords), I can still pay attention to the difference between a loaf of white and a loaf of whole grain in the bread aisle.

Maybe part of the difficulty with the local food discussion is that it may have to come in stages, and we must accept people where they are. First, we teach what food in the grocery store has the most nutrition, and we teach why preparing a fresh meal is better for the family than serving ready-made meals. And less expensive. But then we need to take into account that not all families have a person with time to prepare fresh meals every night - maybe a single parent is working 2 or 3 jobs - so we need to teach them how and why to cook something large that can be heated up as needed over a period of days.

The layers of challenge go deeper like an onion, but like an onion, if you take each layer as it comes, you'll eventually reach a place where you can begin....

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